Does the U.S. (and green tech) have a looming technology-security minerals crisis?


Impacts from the 1973 OPEC oil embargo could pale by comparison to an embargo or other disrupted access to the exotic, critical and strategic metals and minerals that are essential for energy, computer, defense and other technologies that are the foundation for virtually every facet of US economy and security. Right now, the United States imports up to 100% of those materials – and two dozen of them come 60% to 100% from China, Russia or mines controlled by those two countries.

Ironically, we likely have all of them right under our feet. But the United States is the only nation in the world that locks them up, makes them inaccessible under almost any conditions. My article lays out some of the steps that must be taken to address this untenable, unsustainable situation … and cites a new book that provides fascinating and disturbing details about it.

A looming technology-security minerals crisis?

New book analyzes near-total foreign dependency for critical minerals – and offers solutions

by Paul Driessen

In 1973 OPEC countries imposed an oil embargo to retaliate for US support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Drivers endured soaring gasoline prices, blocks-long lines, hours wasted waiting to refuel vehicles, and restrictions on which days they could buy fuel. America was vulnerable to those blackmail sanctions because we imported “too much” oil – though it was just 30% of our crude.

The fracking revolution (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing) and other factors changed that dramatically. The United States now produces more crude oil than at any time since 1970.

But now we face new, potentially far greater dangers – because we import up to 100% of dozens of metals and minerals essential for wind turbines, solar panels, and a vast array of defense, security, automotive, computer, communication, electrical grid, battery and countless other technologies. Two dozen of them come 60% to 100% from China, Russia or mines controlled by those two countries … and where child labor, worker safety, human rights and environmental standards are minimal to nonexistent.

Recent Defense and Interior Department reports have identified literally hundreds of ways US industries and military readiness are acutely vulnerable to supply interruptions for these rare earth and other exotic materials. Equally troubling, 90% of the world’s printed circuit boards are produced in Asia, more than half of them in China; that presents still more risks that competitors and enemies are establishing more ports of entry (on top of highly professional hacking) into industry and defense computer systems.

And now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change absurdly claims American (and global) fossil fuel use must be slashed from over 80% of our energy today to zero by 2050 – and replaced by renewable energy. That would raise our dependency on these metals and minerals, and their costs, by orders of magnitude. It would severely impact every facet of our economy, security, defense and personal lives.

Just building the wind turbines, solar cells and high-tech transmission systems for billions of megawatt-hours of electricity would require incalculable quantities – and money. Batteries to back up all that electricity for windless and sunless hours, days or weeks would require vast additional quantities.

Thankfully, volcanic and magmatic activity, plate tectonics and other powerful geologic processes have blessed America with metallic and other mineral deposits unsurpassed almost anywhere else in the world. We likely have all these essential materials right under our feet. Incredibly, insanely, the United States is the only nation in the world that locks them up, makes them inaccessible under almost any conditions.

Federally controlled lands are especially problematical. Not only are they our most mineralized regions. We have no idea what is actually there. And we are not permitted to evaluate their mineral potential, in order to make informed, rational decisions about how they should be managed – to balance environmental protection and preservation against the raw material needs of a modern industrialized, technological nation.

A 1975 report found that 74% of federal lands were totally or effectively closed to exploration for and development of critical minerals, because of pro-wilderness, anti-mining, anti-energy laws, regulations, bureaucratic roadblocks, environmentalist lawsuits and court decisions.

An updated 1994 study (conducted after 78 million acres had been transferred to the State of Alaska and Alaskan Natives) concluded that 71% of federal lands were still off limits: 427 million acres; our best mineral lands; a land area equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined! Since then, the situation has worsened steadily, especially during the Obama years. Even supposedly available lands are mostly inaccessible, because bureaucrats refuse to issue permits.

Perhaps worst of all, much of this steady lockdown resulted from a concerted, irresponsible effort to place lands in wilderness and other highly restrictive land-use categories – often with the deliberate purpose of preventing anyone from ever assessing or accessing their critical and strategic mineral potential. A recent US House of Representatives committee memorandum summarizes growing congressional concerns.

A groundbreaking book – titled Groundbreaking! America’s new quest for minerals independence – will soon provide persuasive reasons why we must reexamine the policies that brought us to this untenable and unsustainable point in American history. In concise, plain language, geologist Ned Mamula and Silicon Valley expert Ann Bridges explain why we must literally break ground in these areas … and drill down to find out what minerals are in them. Their key points must be pondered, absorbed and acted on by all who care about our security and prosperity.

  • We won the oil and gas energy war, but a growing minerals and metals dependency imperils our future.
  • America is undeniably endowed with mineral riches, but we have no idea what we have or where it is located, because we are not permitted even to look for, map and evaluate deposits. In fact, we cannot even mine major deposits when we know their precise location, composition and value. We need to know as much about subsurface values as we do about surface values, if we are to make informed decisions.
  • American jobs, prosperity and security have always been based on “mineral wealth.” Some of our major cities and many of our major industries (including Silicon Valley) exist because of metals and minerals.
  • We are at great risk now, because we are 50-100% reliant on foreign countries for the exotic minerals and metals needed to satisfy our addiction to computers, cell phones and other high-tech gadgetry, for virtually every civilian, industrial, medical, communication and defense application imaginable.
  • China and Russia supply enormous quantities of our most critical and strategic materials – and could easily use them as leverage if the US challenges their hegemonic goals in Asia, Europe or the Pacific. The wealthy, powerful, increasingly radical environmental industry exacerbates these vulnerabilities.
  • Chapters devoted to rare earth metals, uranium and copper-molybdenum-gold explain the politics, economics and corruption surrounding their stories, and how certain politicians and pressure groups actually want to de-industrialize America and reduce our living standards and global power.
  • Excessive laws, land withdrawals run amok, costly and interminable environmental review and permitting processes, and other factors impose severe constraints on US viability and sustainability. Constantly changing technologies mean constantly changing materials needs and renewed exploration.
  • Australia and Canada protect their precious environmental heritage while also utilizing their precious metals and minerals heritage. The United States must apply these lessons in devising better ways to handle land withdrawals, environmental reviews and permitting – with the White House, Congress, universities and the private sector leading the way on public discussions and positive initiatives.
  • Alternatives to fossil fuel energy, high-tech equipment of every description, nearly everything we use in our daily lives is tied to the exotic, strategic and critical minerals we have so cavalierly made off limits.
  • Except for national parks and certain other places, federal lands must be surveyed and explored by government agencies and private sector companies using aerial and ground-based induced polarization, magnetometer and radiometric technologies, grid soil analyses and equipment literally carried in backpacks. Good prospects must then be evaluated further using truck and helicopter drilling rigs, to collect core samples and other information needed for deciding an area’s highest and best uses.
  • It’s time to launch a groundswell of support for more responsible policies, disrupt the status quo, and turbo-charge US mining, job creation, job and industry preservation, and long-term national security and defense readiness. Failure to do so violates the most fundamental principles of national security and responsible government.

The needs of current and future generations are at stake, because prolonged disruptions of our access to these minerals would lead to the collapse of Silicon Valley and many other industries, severely compromised defense capabilities, and the disruption or even destruction of almost every sector of our computer-dependent economy and society.

President Trump, his cabinet, members of Congress, military and industrial leaders, regulators, citizens and environmentalists need to read this book (coming in December). Above all, they need to recognize that modern mining technologies, techniques and regulations enable us to develop the minerals and metals we so critically need, while preserving the scenic, wildlife and environmental values we cherish.

Paul Driessen is policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of articles and books on natural resource issues. He has degrees in geology, ecology and environmental law.

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October 28, 2018 1:16 pm

We have millions of “protected” federal lands brimming to the full with rare earths and essential minerals. China, in scaling back exports of the same, may have done us a huge favor, for now we can seriously consider becoming “extraction friendly” on US owned lands, and with sufficient restoration guidelines, make ourselves “Great Again!”

Reply to  tomwys
October 28, 2018 3:01 pm

The reason America doesn’t produce Rare Earth Elements (REE) is both due to environmental concerns and competition with China. As recently as 1998, most of the world’s REE came from America. link I believe the big deal is the labor involved in processing.

National security demands that we maintain the ability to mine and process REE even if we don’t produce much or export it. China has shown itself quite willing to cut off the supply of REE to Japan to gain political leverage. link

Gary Pearse
Reply to  commieBob
October 28, 2018 4:37 pm

CB China has done this damage to global commodity competition by selling at below normal costs of production and this partly because of endemic illegal mining and processing that has caused collapse of mines, poisoning the environment and smuggling amazingly large amounts of such mineral products into countries like neighboring Vietnam for export.

China realised they were depleting valuable resources for little return about a decade ago and they have been working to end all this.

I thought that this article was going to be another Malthusian resource depletion story, but thankfully its not. To give an idea of the prowess of the minerals industry, I attended a strategic lithium resoures meeting in 1976 in Denver hosted by the USGS, an is-there-enough meeting. At the time, there was only ~5 lithium operations producing <10,000t a yr total globally.

First, I have to give kudos to the USGS which envisioned a quantum leap in demand for Li for use by the end of the century in electric automobiles, batteries for myriad uses etc. The resource people (I was the only non-American present but had knowlege of Canadian and global Li resources) opined that there was no shortage of resource potential as long as the price was right. Today, there are over 400 projects with exploration activity and forecasts heading for a million tonnes a year (Im a consultant on 5 of the best of the hard rock sources, one, the world's largest, is in the Congo).

Canada has numerous large rare earth element deposits that, when the price becomes right, will jump into production. One in Quebec with over 20 million t of ore grading over 1% RE-oxide equivalent and with significant zones of high value heavy REE. Mount Royal, a large high hill for which Montreal is named forms the central core of the city – it is a rich REE deposit that is clearly going to remain undeveloped. It is one of a chain of such isolated mountains extending westerly and easterly of the city for about 30miles. Ontario and Labrador are also well endowed with REE, too.

Paul Driessen has this picture absolutely right, although I'm praying the demand for windmills and solar panels has peaked. We cant afford what the promoters have planned for us.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 28, 2018 9:10 pm

“It is one of a chain of such isolated mountains extending westerly and easterly of the city for about 30miles.”

Very interesting, is there any speculation as to what geologic circumstances joined forces to cause such a concentration?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  MSO
October 29, 2018 9:11 am

MSO, I hope you check back for this reply. The chain of hills which include Mount Royal (Montreal) are Cretaceous alkaline intrusions/extrusions including carbonate igneous rocks (carbonatites) on the western end near and in Montreal and become syenitic going eastwards. A connecting trend further west -northwest into Ontario have other carbonatites and kimberlites, including the Attawapiskat diamond pipe of DeBeers – it is the richest high gemstone diamond mine in the world, IIRC, the ore being worth more than $500 a tonne and the diamonds being 80% gem quality.

These features are the locus of continental rift systems as found in East Africa, where chains of alkaline volcanoes/intrusives occur with associated carbonatites, kimberlites and variations (Kilimanjaro is a member of this suite). A rare nitrocarbonate (sodium carbonate) volcano in Tanzania (Ol Doinyo Lengai) is the only known active carbonatite volcano known. Exotic stuff. The lithium project I’m consulting on in the Congo is located not far from Rwanda which has carbonatites that are part of the system.

Reply to  MSO
October 30, 2018 9:44 pm

“MSO, I hope you check back for this reply”

Thanks Gary, I appreciate write up! I’m an amateur at such things, but I do enjoy learning about them.

Reply to  commieBob
October 28, 2018 4:51 pm

“the big deal is the labor involved in processing.”
Yes, REE don’t tend to form concentrated ores like many other metals.
Also, some other sources give different country reserves from that above, with US ranking lower and Australia much higher.

Reply to  commieBob
October 28, 2018 5:01 pm

Most of America’s rare Earth minerals were harvested from existing mines.

Though they did require substantial additional processing to separate and concentrate teh low quantities available.

When China was literally dumping REE on the market, it was unprofitable to run the extra processing necessary; so the companies ceased extracting and refining Rare Earths.
Who could blame them?

Russia refused to depend upon China and China wasn’t dumping REE where Russia was concerned. China wasn’t sharing REE freely with Japan either.

Unfortunately, it isn’t likely to be profitable any time soon for companies to rerun the discarded tailings for just the REE content.

Current and future mines could target and separate REE.

as for the current times? Buy every bit of available REE that China dumps on the market at less than cost pricing and stockpile all excess. We might as well benefit from China’s trying t control the world’s REE mining, processing and stockpiling

Unlike the majority of the world, much of those Federal lands mentioned above are under the management of Bureau of Land Management.
Where individuals, companies and corporations can file claims and open mining operations.

EPA did stick it’s long misshapen pustulent proboscis unnecessarily into mines and mining. Fix the regulatory problems, and fix the cost of filing claims where corporations take advantage and few countries offer the mining opportunity America provides.

USGS provides access to mineralogical maps and also maintains a database of minerals found across America.

The big question is what lies deep under America’s surface layers. Uplifted mountains across America provide hints to what can be found a couple of miles deep. Detailed knowledge of deep minerals are mostly unknown.

All it takes, is for the value and need for minerals to climb high enough to spur deep prospecting.

Reply to  ATheoK
October 28, 2018 6:13 pm

One of the main problems with spurring mineral development is the suspension of the ability to patent proven mineral lands. Until Clinton stopped this process, the mineral owner had the ability to proceed to gaining fee title to the land in the proven claim. With title to the land the mine plan could end with a valuable asset to work with instead of the huge liability left with the requirement to reclaim the land and release the mineral holding back to the U.S. Under pressure from environmental groups the funds to process patents were withdrawn with promises to update/rework the law. No effort has been put forth to do the promised work on the laws and the result has been greatly reduced mineral development and a transition to only large mining outfits having the funds to pursue most mineral deposits and the removal of most small miners from the exploration industry.

Reply to  commieBob
October 28, 2018 5:25 pm

Not to mention the selling out of US assets by vested interests. The Bundy Ranch thing was not about cattle.

” Southeast Nevada is said to be home to rare uranium reserves. It is also home to the Bundy Ranch. More specifically- the Bundy ranch is in Clark County. Page 6 of 46 in a PDF document from the Geological Survey Bulletin entitled “Radioactive Deposits of Nevada” states, “Quite a number of small deposits containing secondary uranium materials are concentrated in the southern part of Clark County.” In addition there are over 100 uranium mines in the county.
The Hammond Ranch is adjacent to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge that was seized by the Bundys in protest. The refuge sits in in Harney County which abuts Malheur County. In 2012 Oregon announced plans to allow mining for gold and uranium in Malheur County. “Coincidentally” it was this land that the BLM was planning to hand over to Uranium One for exploration and development. ”

Reply to  commieBob
October 29, 2018 4:30 am

in todays aussie papers chinas getting toey and talking prep for war…so i guess Trump can do a state of emergency/nat security ruling and force access?
you sold off your processing plant to china i gather for the only RE production some decades back

Reply to  commieBob
October 30, 2018 4:49 pm

No, the main issue is not labour, it is chemistry. There are about 100 different minerals that contain rare earths, and they always contain several rare earths. The reason is that rare earths have very similar chemistries are are very difficult to separate from each other – so they don’t separate well geologically, and are very difficult to separate after mining. Separation methods have only been developed for a few of these minerals – one cannot transfer the separation technology of one rare earth mineral to another, for each a new one has to be developed. So for rare earths it also matters which minerals one can find.

October 28, 2018 1:20 pm

China has been buying up rare earth minerals from every country in the world for decades in an attempt to corner the market and, I believe, they’ve succeeded. During the obama administration and while she was Secty of State, hillary made many deals to sell off America’s mineral resources, mostly to China and Russia, but any high bidder was welcome. The stand off at Malheur was about the minerals under the land. Just after the siege of the Hammond ranch, obama took over 300 million acres of US land, including farm land, throughout the country, but mostly in the west. If it smells like a…

Kurt in Switzerland
October 28, 2018 1:20 pm

Important contribution. Look forward to the book.

Gunga Din
October 28, 2018 1:27 pm

Reminds me Bill Clinton.
There were 3 know sources of “clean” (super clean?) coal in the world.
One was in Africa but implacable to develop.
One was in (I think) Indonesia, controlled by the Lippo Group.
The last was in Utah.
Clinton declared the area a National Refuge (or something along those lines that would prevent mining it) without input from the State of Utah.
The Lippo group contributed heavily to him.

Kurt in Switzerland
October 28, 2018 1:28 pm

2017 estimates of annual production as well as reserves in rare earths by country:

Kurt in Switzerland
October 28, 2018 1:30 pm
Tom Halla
October 28, 2018 1:31 pm

There is an executive order on the National Environmental Policy Act perpetrated under Carter which is responsible for much of the delays in getting approval under the Act. As it was an executive order, it should be simple to change. Green heads would explode, but much of the delay would go away.

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 28, 2018 2:50 pm

The problem is that if President Trump issued an EO to reverse the Carter EO (completely within his power to do with a stroke of a pen), it would be immediately challenged in court and tied up for a decade or more, because somehow EOs from “good” Presidents carry the force of law – and EOs from “bad” Presidents are to be ignored at all costs.

Tom Halla
Reply to  ShanghaiDan
October 28, 2018 4:48 pm

Perhaps changes in the composition of the Supreme Court will deal with those endless appeals. The Carter EO is what establishes the nature of how things can be appealed, so it gets a bit self-referential.

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 28, 2018 5:29 pm

Not until we start putting these treasonous [expletive deleted]’s in jail.

Walter Horsting
October 28, 2018 1:33 pm

My friend James Kennedy on Rare Earth Elements and Thorium:

October 28, 2018 1:47 pm

Jimmy Carter followed this kind of policy advice and we got taxpayer funded bad ideas on industrial scales at Beulah ND and Rifle CO. Synthetic gas from coal in Beulah and guaranteed contracts for shale oil at 3x the market price at Colorado. Thankfully both were not wholesale industry distortions like ethanol but you get the idea. We also had a strategic helium reserve that slowly educated people on that one.

On the outer Barcoo
October 28, 2018 1:54 pm

The Mountain Pass rare earths deposit overlooks the big solar power station on the Ivanpah playa in California. It is a large, high-grade resource that has been neutered by bureaucracy, thereby ensuring that the US military will continue to be reliant on its adversaries for many years. Go figure.

Reply to  On the outer Barcoo
October 28, 2018 3:11 pm

“The Mountain Pass rare earths deposit…”
The Mountain Pass mine once dominated world production. And it didn’t run out of ore. It’s problem was just that China was producing more cheaply. That may be unfair, but it won’t be fixed by more exploration on Federal lands. The ore is there and the infrastructure to mine it. If it is important for the US to produce their own rare earths, they can do it now. The problem is making a profit. There have been several recent attempts; the most recent leading to Molycorp’s bankruptcy in 2015.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2018 4:05 pm

The “problem” with Mountain Pass is that it lies within the confines of California

Cheap Chinese labor is competition, but not insurmountable, . . . . IF the USA really wanted to extract the essential REEs

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 29, 2018 8:54 am

Stokes sez:
It’s problem was just that China was producing more cheaply.

Oh right, CA’s & the EPA’s strangling regulations don’t have a thing to do w/it. It’s just a simple matter of price.


J Mac
Reply to  beng135
October 29, 2018 10:30 am


Gary Pearse
Reply to  On the outer Barcoo
October 28, 2018 4:45 pm

Update, Mountain Pass was sold to a Chinese “Company” OKed by Obama.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 28, 2018 6:00 pm

” OKed by Obama”
Just not true. There was an auction held June 2017. There were several bidders. Obama had nothing to do with it.

In fact, their mmain present problem is Trump’s tariffs. They want to send the ore for processing in China and bring it back. But now there is a tax each way.

Matt Schilling
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 29, 2018 7:11 am

Am I the only one who thinks ‘maybe sending the ore to Communist China for processing isn’t a good idea’?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 29, 2018 3:26 pm

Actually you twigged my memory. There was blowback that a Chinese government company wasn’t subject to foreign investment review under the circumstances of REE strategic importance and the Chinese predatory pricing created monopoly. Trump obviously wasn’t up on the file in the early days of his presidency and the deep state certainly didn’t alert the new administration.

R.S. Brown
October 28, 2018 2:09 pm

The 2018 U.S. Department of the Interior/United States Geological Service “Mineral
Commodity Summary” report can be found here:

The report is in PDF format, and can be downloaded in about 30 seconds.

Figure on spending a couple hours to browse through it. There’s not a lot of
political/editorial comment involved… just text, graphs, and maps.

I don’t have the technical expertise to include any of the graphics from a PDF
in a post, but some of your WUWT readers might.

Our taxes actually at work!

Reply to  R.S. Brown
October 28, 2018 4:18 pm

USGS had a research program on Strategic and Critical Minerals back in the 60s and 70s and catalogued many mineral deposits with significant reserves/potential ores of REEs, thorium, uranium, Lanthanide and Actinide elements, vanadium, molybdenum, and the like. That information still exists in USGS publications and databases. We know where the likely resources are.

I believe the program ended in the Carter days, no surprise.

If REEs and other exotic elements are essential for wind and solar power, as well as batteries to store intermittent energy, we can solve one big part of the REE shortfall by eliminating wind and solar installations. Literally “unsustainable”. Done deal.

As others have mentioned, the real powerhouse of the future is THORIUM in scalable molten-salt fission reactors. Totally safe, no significant radioactive waste, and capable of consuming and neutralizing existing high-level nuclear waste.

Engineers know how to do this. Environmentalists do their best to thwart every technological advance that would power human civilization for centuries.

Maybe Greenies just don’t like people, eh?

October 28, 2018 2:12 pm

” China has more than half of total global reserves” say Chinese peoples republic ministry of mines. /sarc
Are you certain the estimate is realistic?

October 28, 2018 2:13 pm

forget renewables. All you need is uranium or thorium.

Forget electric cars. All you need is synfuel made from nuclear power waste heat

October 28, 2018 2:14 pm

We have the same problem here n Australia, Kakadu National Park is a very good example.

To counter the left wing Media and wealthy Greens we need Government properganda, but of course that depends on the policy of the Government.

Its a very true saying that a country gets the government it deserves.


October 28, 2018 2:18 pm

We have the same problem her in Australia, Kakadu National Park is a very good example.

To counter the left wing Media and wealthy Greens we need Government properganda, but of course that depends on the policy of the Government.

Its a very true saying that a country gets the government it deserves.


Robert W. Turner
October 28, 2018 2:19 pm

Most federal lands are actually easy to prospect for minerals on and stake a claim. The major hurdle is being allowed to smelt your ore.

John F. Hultquist
October 28, 2018 2:22 pm

Is ‘Supply & Demand’ no longer a valid concept?

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
October 28, 2018 3:22 pm

Supply and Demand is ALWAYS valid. What the government does here is typically remove supply, ignores the demand, and therefore increases price, and THAT normally reduces demand by pricing some out of the market.

October 28, 2018 2:22 pm

Issue an Executive order that only classifies ore as a “Source Material” if the Uranium content is above the limit to make it mine-able on its own. As it is now, any radioactive trace classifies it as a “Source Material”.

October 28, 2018 2:32 pm

“We won the oil and gas energy war, but a growing minerals and metals dependency imperils our future.”

We sort of won a few battles regarding oil and gas energy. Mainly in terms of winning is we are generally still maintaining “global security” and will continue, if continue to strengthen the US and NATO countries, military forces.
Don’t vote for dems because they are for weakening the US military and not having border security. And this is pretty obvious, by observing what they do vs what they say.

“America is undeniably endowed with mineral riches, but we have no idea what we have or where it is located, because we are not permitted even to look for, map and evaluate deposits. In fact, we cannot even mine major deposits when we know their precise location, composition and value. We need to know as much about subsurface values as we do about surface values, if we are to make informed decisions.”
Only informed decision is not having laws which inhibit the minerals from being explored in order to mine them.

“American jobs, prosperity and security have always been based on “mineral wealth.” Some of our major cities and many of our major industries (including Silicon Valley) exist because of metals and minerals.”

US has mineral wealth because US govts hasn’t restricted the mining of them, so as to prevent them from being mined. Or US is not as socialist as other countries which the govt owning mining companies in which government badly manages. Just look at your crop of politicians, do you want them owning US businesses?
They can’t even manage running a train.

michael hart
October 28, 2018 2:35 pm

“…because we import up to 100% of dozens of metals and minerals essential for wind turbines, solar panels, …”</blockquote

And losing those would be about as bad as a national philosphers strike.

As to the other more serious things, in the worst case scenario of a war with China I don't think it would last long enough for industrial shortages to be the main problem. Either the US could source them another way, or we would all already be dead before stockpiles ran out.

October 28, 2018 2:43 pm


The greens are happy to stop mining activities in western countries, because our democratic syatems allow the to be heard.

Yet the countries best able to manage and ensure ethical mining practices are excluded from the equation. Instead, countries with unsavoury human, and environmental rights remain as the last resort for the world.

Western democracy and capitalism may not be perfect, but they’re a damn site more perfect than the alternatives.

October 28, 2018 2:43 pm

On the bright side, if there were no more wind-turbines, it would be a great relief. It is a pity about the other matters like defence, security, automotive, computer, communication, electrical grid, battery and other technologies.

October 28, 2018 2:58 pm

There is an upside, right?

The upside of having all the critically important minerals “right under our feet” so to speak is that come a time when for war, or resource exhaustion, or similar … we can begin to exploit our own resources and NOT export them to the rest of the world. At their disadvantage, then.

However in another sense, it is downright myopic not to at least have exploration be open — and encouraged. I guess the problem with that is that interests do a double gamble: get permits to prospect, drill holes at pretty substantial expense, then armed with lots of nice findings and big bills, bully their local congressanimals into influencing the regulatory agencies so that they might obtain permits to actually pursue the found resources.

Which is what the EPA doesn’t want.

No win.
Best just to keep the resources protected.

And hope for a world where we’re not warring with those-who-deliver-to-our-markets.

Just saying,

October 28, 2018 3:18 pm

“undeniably endowed with mineral riches, but we have no idea what we have or where it is located” – does that make sense – “undeniable” on one hand, “no idea” on the other

Merlin Williams
October 28, 2018 3:26 pm

I was told the same thing over 50 years ago when I was a student in a college of mines at a western university. The students who were doing mineral surveys during the summer and for there graduate degrees were not able to report what they actually found.

October 28, 2018 3:30 pm

I’m surprised that no one has realized that we don’t need to strip mine or tunnel mine the rare earth elements, we can simply scrap the costly wind farms, they’ve got literally tons of REEs, plus the tax payers have already paid for the extraction.

william Johnston
Reply to  wsbriggs
October 28, 2018 3:48 pm

I agree. Or, since we are running short, maybe we should just stop going the wind mill and other “renewable” nonsense and put the money into something really useful.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  william Johnston
October 28, 2018 4:04 pm

Renewable energy is plenty useful for those in on the sc@m that’s for sure.

Reply to  william Johnston
October 28, 2018 11:12 pm

Looks like “renewable” energy is no more renewable than any other form of energy – e.g. “dirty” coal and oil.

Patrick MJD
October 28, 2018 3:56 pm

Cobalt; 60,749.92 USD/t…and rising and China is securing sources all over the world in particular Africa.

October 28, 2018 5:01 pm

Australia is now well known to have much larger reserves than previously thought :
And this figure is growing every year. I think we will find within 5 years, Australia will have over 50% of the estimated reserves (fortunately)

Reply to  ggm
October 28, 2018 6:24 pm

Australia has the same issues with exploitation. The current left leaning Federal Government which is luke-warm on mining will lose the next election and be replaced by a Green/Left coalition. Politicians have been de-industrialising the nation for a while, and Australia is very reliant on it’s mineral wealth. The urban Elite don’t like mines, and there is already substantial pressure to close mines – profitable coal mines for starters.
Within 18 months I expect there will be only mine closures, no new mines, lasting for a few years.

Ironically, the Chinese are buying up undervalued mines, and may be the only major political group fighting to keep mining open. Do not expect Chinese financiers to be keen on exporting to the USA when they have there own economy to supply.

Reply to  ggm
October 29, 2018 4:41 am

Lynas was mining reminerals in wa…processing to be done in malaysia from memory
so our greentards started a scare story the sand was radioactive and got the processing plant closed down there.
i think its recently proved its no more than avg backround soil rad and its started up.
same story in Vic where a corp mining RE sands was shipping its own area and another places soil back
local greens ran the radiation scam and got the locals knickers in a knot.
I spent some time explaining to a friend living in the area, that nothing was added just a few grams at best per tonne of RE was removed and soil coming in was as normal

Bruce of Newcastle
Reply to  ggm
October 29, 2018 1:54 pm

That data doesn’t tell the real story.

I’ll give you this figure as an illustration. The Olympic Dam deposit in South Australia contains approximately 80 million tonnes of REE. That could sustain those production figures for the next 500 years. From just that one deposit.

They don’t even extract the REE because if they did the price would collapse. Anyway they don’t need to since it is already one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world and THE largest uranium deposit in the world.

Add in the deposits listed in Ch 2 of Gupta (which is the go to REE textbook) and the picture is there is enough REE around for many millennia even without recycling.

The reason that the US doesn’t produce much REE is the processing requires about 120 separate solvent extraction steps, which require careful control. That means lots of chemical engineers. China has lots of chemical engineers whereas in the US the kids all want nice jobs as lawyers and whatnot. The cost structure is ‘way higher in any western country, so China has cornered the processing of REE for that reason.

October 28, 2018 5:16 pm

The left will go mental at the thought of opening new mines for these materials.

October 28, 2018 5:33 pm

Distribution of rare earth elements in coal combustion fly ash, determined by SHRIMP-RG ion microprobe

October 28, 2018 5:52 pm

Easily solved – just melt down all those useless solar panels and windmills.

Reply to  Bevan Dockery
October 28, 2018 7:17 pm

And it will not take long for them to become scrap.
Germany will be a world leader of the scrap.

October 28, 2018 8:36 pm

But you will have to wait until th electricity stops, then and only then will the largely aperthetic population realise that we do indeed have a problem.


October 28, 2018 9:36 pm

If I was the US Government I would keep all natural resources in the ground and use everyone else’s supply, ie consume as much oil as possible from Venezuela until sucked dry.

John MacDonald
October 28, 2018 9:41 pm

It has often been said that there are only two basic industries…mining and agriculture.
I wonder when the greens will figure out they’re committing suicide. And forcing the rest of us to follow.
We need some adults at Interior to start to turn around this slide to supply oblivion. And some at Education to teach reality.

October 29, 2018 5:54 am

Minnesota’s Polymet project, (huge copper deposit)utilizing an existing open pit mine site,has been tied up in the regulatory process for a decade or more. The permit to mine” has not been granted yet. The wheels of gubmint, both state and federal, turn very slowly.

Matt Schilling
October 29, 2018 7:15 am

It seems there’s lots of REE sitting out on the ocean floor near Hawaii. If there’s a will, there’s a way…

Adrian Ashfield
October 29, 2018 11:12 am

It doesn’t matter.
Curious to have a piece on new technologies without mentioning LENR. Don’t believe me. look for the live streamed demo of Rossi’s SK reactor on Jan31 2019.

Robert of Texas
October 29, 2018 12:00 pm

Like all element-type shortages, this one will work out just fine after several natural-market and technological progress are made. It’s just like the “Oil Crisis”.

First, as a resource gets more expensive, several factors kick in. Recycling efficiency ramps up. New sources become available. Products are designed to use less of it so the amount needed now for a battery is not the amount needed in 20 years for the same amount of energy storage battery. These alone will cap the price of rare earth elements (minus a few panic spikes) to reasonable limits.

Second, new technology is used to completely bypass the problem. We discover new and better ways to build a battery that doesn’t use the scarce resource. We make batteries that last twice as long before needing to by recycled. We build better engines and lighter cars so less energy is needed in the first place – less energy needs less batteries.

Third, there is always the small chance of a major breakthrough – we learn how to efficiently “make” the element by transforming some more common element into it – alpha particles or neutrons added to an element that then decays into an element we want. Yeah, its a long shot that we can do this (and purify the resulting material) economically, but in the next 50 to 100 years it just might happen – there is no Physics barrier to doing so, just economic ones. In any case, the more valuable the element becomes the more likely such a breakthrough will occur.

Walter Sobchak
October 29, 2018 12:16 pm

“lays out some of the steps that must be taken to address this untenable, unsustainable situation”

By strangling the last lawyer with the entrails of the last environmentalist.

October 31, 2018 10:08 am

I sicerely hope so, as my investments in rae earth n miners oustide China were almost wiped out, so the market certainly doesn’t see the same problem, albeit an ignorant mob of herd mentality gamblers milked by a few market manipulators.

November 7, 2018 3:11 pm

But you can’t mine what you don’t have. The article’s statement “we likely have all of them right under our feet” is wishful thinking at best when the US has (by USGS estimates) insignificant reserves of tungsten, titanium, tin, tantalum, strontium, nickel, manganese, gallium, cobalt, antimony, vanadium, and more. Don’t accuse me of being against mining; I’m not. But there’s also reality.

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